Adult Adoptions: Can I Really Adopt a Grownup?

December 6, 2019
Holly S. Filius

During the holiday season we often hear the quintessential phrase “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Well, for those of you out there considering adopting someone over the age of eighteen, yes, there is adult adoption.

In the state of Pennsylvania, anyone can adopt and anyone can be adopted if they are legally free for adoption. That is, if the proposed adoptee’s parental rights have been terminated or in the case of an adult, if notice is provided to the adult proposed adoptee’s biological parents, unless otherwise waived by court order. The process in a minor’s adoption is relatively simple. In fact, the Pennsylvania Adoption Statute is like a recipe book which contains each step necessary to finalize an adoption. However, when adopting an adult, two Pennsylvania statutes must be considered. First is the Adoption Statute and the second is the Name Change Statute.

If an adult is being adopted and does not wish to change their name, the name change procedures are not required to be followed. However, if an adult is being adopted and wishes to change any part of their name, then the name change procedures must be followed. In Lancaster County, a separate petition for change of name is not required, but the information required to be in a name change petition must be included with the adoption petition. When including a request for a name change in an adult adoption, a petitioner must include the following:

  • the intention to change the adult proposed adoptee’s name
  • the reason for the name change
  • the current residence of the adult proposed adoptee and any residence in which he or she has resided for the five years prior to the date of filing the petition
  • an averment regarding whether the petitioner requests the Court waive the notice requirements under Paragraph (3)(iii) due to concerns for the adult proposed adoptee’s safety.

Adult adoptees must be fingerprinted in order to determine whether or not they have a criminal record. This requirement is in place to ensure that an individual is not requesting a name change to avoid criminal prosecution. Official searches must also be completed at the Prothonotary’s Office, the Clerk of Court’s Office and the Recorder of Deed’s Office in each county where the proposed adult adoptee resided within the five years prior to the filing of the petition. The searches must be completed no more than two days prior to the hearing to ensure that there are no unpaid civil liabilities, real estate issues or pending criminal charges, any of which an adult is attempting to avoid by changing their name.

The Petition for Adoption and Name Change is filed and after receipt of the fingerprints required by the statute, the fingerprints are sent to the PA State Police in order to identify any criminal record. When the results of that criminal search are returned to the court, the court will schedule a hearing on the adoption and the name change. The date and time of the hearing, along with certain notices required by law, must be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the proposed adult adoptee resides, or a county contiguous to that county, and it must be published in the local legal record, which is the official paper for the publication of legal notices in the specific county. The publication must be made for two consecutive weeks prior to the hearing on the adoption and name change.

The newspapers and legal record will return original proof of service for the publication.  This must either be filed prior to the hearing or presented to the judge at the time of the hearing. Signed certifications from the searches done at the Prothonotary’s Office, the Recorder of Deed’s Office and Clerk of Court’s Office are also presented at the time of hearing. A short hearing is held and includes presentation of testimony as required by the Adoption Statute and the Name Change Statute. Although the addition of the name change statute requirements causes additional expense and work prior to the adoption hearing, the adoption hearing itself is not significantly more complicated or longer as a result of the name change.

When considering an adult adoption, proposed adoptive parents should always consult with an experienced adoption attorney to ensure that all of the requirements of the Adoption Statute and the Name Change Statute are met.

Holly Filius is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Adoption and Family Law.